The Paras are the perfect folks for the project having worked closely with Dyer since 1983 on a number of recordings, concert performances, school residencies, assemblies and workshops, and co-founded the Big Muddy Folk Festival held every year in April in Boonville, Missouri. The trio shared a special bond as fellow musicians, songwriters, traditional music preservationists, folklorists and historians. Dave and Cathy discussed the possibility of producing an album of his music recorded by many artists with Dyer before his passing in April of this year. As Dave Para says, "Bob approved of these plans and actively pursued compiling a list of prospective artists and songs and contacting the artists personally. The album is meant to give flight to Bob's songs in the voices, playing and imaginations of many artists. Spiritually, I think this is the highest tribute we can pay him and helps to pass his music on over time."
Recording sessions are in progress at Pete Szkolka's studio north of Columbia, Missouri. The following artists have recorded at least partially their perspective choices: Rocket Kirchner - "Huckleberry Finn," Dave & Cathy - "Bingham's Song", Leela Grace - "Talking Waters", Paul and Win Grace - "When the Doors Start to Open", Don Cooper - "The Dry Waltz", Jon Schneller and his band - "The Last Man to Hang in Missouri", and Ed Trickett - "One Last Time", Violet Von Der Haar - "On a Day Like Today", Jerry Foster - "The Flood Song", Rick Hocks - "Phantom Black Carriage", Central Methodist A Cappella Choir - "River of the Big Canoes", arranged by choral director Paul Drummond, David Grimes - "The Wandering Fool". Artists yet to record are Lee Ruth, Michael Cochran, Joe Newberry and Big Medicine and Bartholomew Bean. While Bob did not live long enough to record the song of his choice, current plans are to include a live recording of Bob singing "The Death of Sitting Bull" at the Everybody's Got Love concert at Thespian Hall in 2003.
During the recording of "One Last Time" at the end of August at Szkolka's studio, Dave and Cathy gathered a chorus of over thirty voices made up of Bob's friends and admirers. Sharon Dyer, Bob's widow, joined the chorus. She says generally the song "One Last Time" is an enumeration of his favorite places: his cabin at Round Oak, the island where his ashes were scattered at Lupus—also, his friends and the people he loved." She said the lyric the "dancing place we go to when we die" is based on Indian mythology. A number of contributions from individuals are funding this project. Many of the artists are paying for their recording sessions. The goal is to raise $8,000. We are half way there. Your support would be welcomed and appreciated. Contributions can be mailed to Turner Hall River Rats for the Arts, C/O Bob Dyer Tribute Album, 518 Vine Street, Boonville, MO, 65233.
Cathy and Dave and the River Rats plan to hold a concert when the album is complete and available for purchase. All the profits will go to Dyer's record label, Big Canoe Records, now owned and operated by Sharon Dyer.